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Landmines on the Road to the Trump-Kim Summit

March 12, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

As President Donald Trump enthusiastically endorses a summit
with someone he effectively threatened to kill just a few weeks
ago, one imagines a man waving a piece of paper while declaring
“peace in our time.”

In fact, the comparison between Trump’s plan to meet with
Kim Jong-un and Britain’s Neville Chamberlain at Munich
fails for the simple reason that North Korea does not seriously
threaten the United States, other than in retaliation for an
American military attack. Nazi Germany was the most industrialized
and populous nation in the heart of Europe, while the Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea is an economic and political
wreck.

It’s pure fantasy to think that one meeting with
America’s Dealmaker-in-Chief will resolve 73 years of
confrontation and conflict on the Korean peninsula. The prospective
summit between Trump and Kim does offer some hope of ending a
crisis that threatens to result in war. But the path forward is
strewn with landmines. Step on one, and the president could find
himself back where he started—after being embarrassed, even
humiliated, by a failed summit.

The president’s
temperament is first among them. Is it possible the meeting might
never take place?

The problems are many. Major summits usually follow detailed
negotiations leading to a breakthrough. After Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright visited Pyongyang in October 2000, there were
attempts to arrange a meeting between Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, the
current ruler’s father, and President Bill Clinton. It did
not occur because there was not enough time for those doing the
real work to hammer out an agreement before the heads of government
met.

This administration is ill-equipped to do such preparatory work,
and not just because of the calendar. The president has left
numerous positions involving Korea policy unfilled. Ambassador
Joseph Yun, an Obama holdover, left just recently. The
administration dumped Victor Cha, a knowledgeable, if hawkish,
Korea expert as nominee to be U.S. ambassador to South Korea
because he rejected proposals to strike the North militarily. The
White House apparently didn’t bother to keep the State
Department abreast of news from the DPRK. So who’s going to
do the advance work necessary to address one of the most complex
and risky issues on the planet?

Certainly not President Trump. He knows little, resists being
briefed, and is subject to manipulation. Indeed, the fact that
Chinese and European officials so ostentatiously played to the president’s
vanities
—gave him a welcome fit for an emperor, convinced
him their ideas are his and he has won—likely encouraged Kim
to try his hand at the same game. If the president is going to
resist the wiles of someone who so far …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Trump’s Most Terrifying Temper Tantrum: Death Penalty for Drug Dealers Is Beyond the Pale

March 12, 2018 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

As President Trump made
abundantly clear
in recent news conferences and interviews, he
sees the zero-tolerance policy on drug use and drug dealing of
Singapore, China and the Philippines as a model for U.S. drug
policy. He is said to believe that all drug dealers should get the
death penalty.

President Trump’s anti-drug advisor, Kellyanne Conway,
reassures us the president plans a more “nuanced”
approach, focused on raising mandatory minimum sentences for drug
dealing. There are also undeveloped proposals to “get tough
on pharmaceutical companies.”

The president’s frustration with the failure of
America’s longest war, the war on drugs, is understandable.
But the solution should not be to try more of the same, only
“tougher.”

Trump’s authoritarian
impulse is alive and well, according to his recent enthusiasm to
expand the death penalty.

Sensible drug policy makes it easier for drug abusers to kick
the habit and transition back to a normal life, rather than ruining
their lives through long-term incarceration — or ending them
altogether through capital punishment. The
evidence
has never supported the contention that the death
penalty is a greater deterrent to crime than incarceration. And a
2009
report
from the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
points to a large body of evidence that the incarceration and
incapacitation of drug dealers has not deterred drug use or
distribution and may, in fact, contribute to an increase in violent
crime.

Drug offenses can merit the death penalty in
over 30 countries
but, perhaps in recognition of the futility
of the death penalty, many of them are turning away from it.
Singapore
amended
its mandatory death penalty laws in 2012, returning
some discretion to the courts to allow for life imprisonment, with
caning as an alternative. The majority of executions in Iran have
been for drug-related crimes, although in 2016 a senior Iranian
judiciary official
proclaimed
, “The truth is, the execution of drug
smugglers has had no deterrent effect.” Later that year,
Iran’s parliament
removed
the death penalty for many drug crimes and replaced it
with incarceration or fines.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines asked the
legislature to restore the death penalty (repealed in 2006) for
drug dealers, and in February of last year the House of
Representatives
approved
the change. The bill is stalled in the Senate.
Nevertheless, extrajudicial killings have been rampant under
Duterte’s leadership. More than 4,000 suspected drug dealers
have been killed by police who have claimed to be acting in
self-defense during raids and sting operations.

By contrast, Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001. The

data
…read more

Source: OP-EDS